Cruel and Unusual
I spent much of the weekend reading Mark Crispin Miller's book Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order. I came across this book quite by accident on a trip to the library where my quarry was It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (1935), which my library did not have. (It did not have any books by Sinclair Lewis, in fact; nor did it have anything by Hannah Arendt. I was looking for The Origins of Totalitarianism.) As I was huffing out in disgust, Miller's book caught my eye from its place low on the New Non-Fiction shelf. The picture on the cover, of Bush frozen in a moment of pure, primate aggression is a perfect mirror of my image of the man. As it turns out, the book is extensively about the phenomenon of projectivity that I wrote about in my previous post. Cruel and Unusual is richly substantiated and frank in its description of the "values" that underlie the Bush push for world domination. (The title says it all, but if you want the encapsulated version, read this interview.) Miller brilliantly examines Bush's troubled past, his garbled speech, and his apcalyptic world view and brings to light the paranoia and egomania that drive Bush's actions and inactions. Finally, a writer who just comes right out and says the man is nuts!
This is one of many books that we will look back on and wonder how we missed it, how we could have so quickly become Oceania while people were drafting viable lifeboats all around us. Reading this book and others I have mentioned before, I can see the future Bush/Cheney has sketched out for us. It is a future that is all about them, their power, their advantage, their gleeful destruction of everything not-them. That destruction will include me and, eventually, you. Finally, they will self-destruct because the evil they're really after is comfortably situated in the center of their hateful black hearts. In the meantime, we are either in the way or along for the ride.
Yeah, yeah, I know I sound like Debbie Downer, and that's unfashionable or not what the DNC recommends or whatever. As a nation, we have grown overly intolerant of anything that does not cater to our immediate sense of comfort. We have our bread and our circuses. What do we care? When I try to talk to others in my immediate circle about what I'm reading or imagining, they wrinkle their noses and turn away because it's all "too depressing." Someone "out there" will fix it. They always do, right?
I can't speak for always. I think these times are different, incendiary. I believe that being awake, aware, and informed could change things. When I pay attention, when I read writers who describe in detail the warts on the Emperor's bare ass, I am more able to manage my level of despair. On a practical level, every book I buy or check out sends the message that I am not complicit in the Bush/Cheney grand larceny. From these readings, I get affirmation that the things I see are real--the revision of history and the Constitution to theocratic ends, the silencing of dissent and the marginalization of the majority, the construction of a mass delusion flowing from one man's pathology. If you doubt this, notice how the patronizing, repetitious tone of CNN seduces you into believing that you are "informed." Refusing to be hypnotized is my first personal form of resistance.
When I am depressed, I feel compelled to do something to alleviate my depression. Every fiber of my being resists acting, of course. Being depressed tricks us into passivity, amplifying and even requiring our unwillingness to identify and clean up the mess as we see it. And in the case of today's politics, much of what is troubling is far outside my sphere of influence. However, I can sit right here and examine how much of my shadow is projected out onto Bush/Cheney. I can accept that there is a part of me that is terrified of what it cannot control. I can see how I crave approval and acceptance, and I wonder, if I was in their shoes, would I handle my ego any more gracefully? I can also account for the times when I've let my fear or rage control me and acted from it, to my detriment and others'. These are the things that I bring inward to my God, in all humility and in deepest privacy. I do not share their experience of God as a cudgel to be inflicted on someone else. I get that they are incapable of seeing me in themselves in the form of empathy, self-doubt, queerness, or fear. I can also see that I differ from Bush/Cheney in my fundamental optimism about people, about the power of goodness, and the general direction of Project Earth. I certainly think they can, and may, destroy the world and everything I love. It is a frightening prospect, but one that I see in a larger and decidedly non-apocalyptic context: they cannot destroy the fact or experience of my love. I am not an unfettered entity whose experiences are swept into oblivion at some preappointed hour. I feel, I think, I can speak, I can listen, I can gain wisdom. These are my immortal powers, my contribution to the collective pickle that has us looking at Bush/Cheney and seeing either a Satan or a Savior.
Quantum physicists tell us that the observation of a phenomenon changes that phenomenon. And so my second act of resistance is to bear witness to these cruel and unusual people and the world as they will have it.